Turning Words into Gameplay

Typoman Revised and Type:Rider

 

Tea: Sencha Ginger

 

Remember my visit to Gamescom 2016? I mentioned a game called Typoman, which I praised and could not wait to play. Recently, I finally had the pleasure of doing so and was immensely satisfied. I also played a game called Type:Rider which is overtly concerned with a similar theme, namely language and words, in this case the focus is more on the written word and its history, however. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about both games and how one fails where the other succeeds.


I’ll start with Type:Rider then, a book masquerading as a game. Basically, Type:Rider consists of copy-pasted texts out of a History of Language book and in between there is some random platforming with a colon. It is all very bare and effortless. By picking up asterisks you gain another page of information, but you need to pause the game and read on your own, basically killing all momentum. I am not saying reading is bad by any means and discovering something by working through texts akin to Dark Souls can be a lot of fun, but this is a core component of the game. You will almost spend more time reading than playing. Why you couldn’t have a narrator read the text to you while you play the game is beyond me. It would work better on every level and if one still wanted to read something again, the text would be there. The platforming works, which is the most praising thing I can come up with. It is -once again – so bare and simplistic. The levels sure look nice and have a hint of creativity in the uses of fonts etc, but this doesn’t alleviate the pain of obnoxiously boring gameplay and the need to constantly pause and read through another page of text that already assumes you are familiar with the matter as it makes no effort to explain certain terms. If I hadn’t suffered through many linguistics courses, some of these passages would have required even more reading to check terms and maybe that is the intent behind it, but it is simply no fun. Of course, you could just skip all the reading and then you are basically left with a flash game platformer, not the worst flash game platformer you have ever played, but it just makes sense to play another game entirely. The core concept – language and words – is not used to its full potential, it serves as nothing more than a stylistic device to make platforms and background imagery, even though there is so much more to be done with this.

unnamed

– It is fun to have a G as a platform, but if that is all you are going to do with it, it feels kind of empty. –

Typoman on the other hand is a game I would label a success in every sense of the word. It achieves everything it sets out to do and in some areas even vastly exceeds expectations. The game tells the grim narrative of a word-shaped world and a hero composed of the letters HERO. It is, at heart, a puzzle platformer that involves word scrambling. By rearranging words, adding letters to existing ones etc. reality can be changed (a performative speech act, yeah something stuck from those linguistics courses). Most obstacles you encounter are made up of letters and behave accordingly. For instance, a platform is made up of the letters for it, an enemy that is themed around destruction is made from the letters of DOOM. Not only is this a clever use of merging two elements (meaning and design), but it is also visually pleasing as the art design allows for such mixing. It is not simply an element to design platforms around, but it feels consistent with the world. The word-based creatures do not stick out as 90% is made up of letters. This amount of consistent aesthetic design is not only gorgeous but also meaningful, truly the best kind of aesthetic choice one could ask for. In this game, there are also some hidden text segments, but guess what, not only are they small, they are also displayed on the screen to read, thus not killing the pacing instantly. Essentially, they are collectibles and their writing is fitting. It does not cram too much in, it is a little emotional spike, a small jolt of electricity and nothing more and it does not require any background knowledge. The puzzles manage to achieve a cathartic element and at the same time make you smile, especially if it took a bit of time to figure it out. The solutions are always sensible and won’t have you searching for a walkthrough, basically the best kind of puzzle game.

screen1

– And now look at this, the words are implemented with meaning and aesthetic sense. –

While it should be pretty easy to see now why one game fails where the other excels as a video game (pacing, aesthetic, world building etc.) it must also be said that Typoman makes the most of its theme. The use of words and language as a concept is clever and well implemented, it is the core of the game and everything is built around this and thus it feels consistent. Type:Rider on the other hand feels like the first idea was to make an educational game about language and the written word. Gameplay and the actual implementation of these two elements must have been an afterthought. As a result, the game feels schizophrenic and stitched together. Typoman is the kind of game we need more of: An idea as the core, one that is consistently followed through with mechanics, the design, and gameplay based around it, and the end-result is a fantastic experience. Basically, the world needs more games like Typoman.

 

Image sources in order of appearance:
https://lh6.ggpht.com/rWk7D–9QSMMg6fZCSmRWMIc5u7z5Wx_8io5zp4hNhKuEMTolXuSGgFAbQCTscKaT2w=h900 (Last date of access: 27.05.2017
http://www.typoman.net/images/screen1.jpg (Last date of access: 27.05.2017)

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